By John Vellante
Their talent as sprinters is impressive. But how would the four perform as a unit, running the 4x400 at last week’s Boston University Terrier Invitational, which attracted college programs from Division 1, 2, and 3, as well as track & field clubs from across the country.
That was University of Massachusetts Lowell track coach Gary Gardner’s question.
It didn’t take long to find out.
Craig Bennett, Ryad Bencheikh, Evan White, and Jeff Wundt sped around the oval at BU’s Track and Tennis Center in 3 minutes, 9.39 seconds, breaking the New England mark set by Boston University (3:09.83) in 2003 and punching their ticket to the NCAA Division 2 championships in March in Mankato, Minn.
It was the fastest time by a Division 2 foursome in the country this season. Only Zenith Velocity Athletic Club of New York City ran faster (3:09.31).
“It was a good day for us, and obviously we’re ecstatic about what we did,’’ said Gardner. “But we made a couple of mistakes along the way that we need to correct. Just little things, but you tweak a little here and tweak a little there and you take another second off. We still have six weeks or so until the NCAAs. . . .
“Individually, these four are really fast. That’s one of the reasons I put them together. Plus, they’re roommates and they get along well and push each other. As individuals, they’re outstanding. You put them together and this is the result. Having Zenith Velocity in the field really helped us. We pushed them all the way.’’
Bennett, Bencheikh, Wundt, and White have each met the NCAA provisional qualifying time for the 400 meters.
Bennett, a junior from Milton, ran the first leg, grabbing the lead in 47.4 seconds. He handed off to Woburn’s Bencheikh, who ran a 46.8 second split. Wundt (Southwick) retained the lead with his 47.9-second effort, and White, the pride of Tewksbury, breezed home in 46.6.
“It was awesome,’’ said White. “I had no idea we had set a New England record. Overall, though, there’s room for improvement, especially on my leg.’’
Now that the group has qualified for NCAAs as a team, Bencheikh feels the four can concentrate more on their individual efforts. “We don’t have to worry now about being there as a team,’’ he said. “Now we want to make sure we all get there as individuals.’’
Overall, the BU Terrier Invitational was a huge success for the River Hawks. In addition to the 4x400 relay team earning a berth in the NCAAs, so did seniors AngusMacDonald of Methuen and Jeff Viega of Lowell. Third and fourth on the NCAA list, each met the criteria in the 5,000 meters - MacDonald in 14:14.45 and Veiga in 14:15.97.